Turning pledges into action

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Blog from Meera Chadha, Programme Manager, Nesta. Last week, I was lucky enough to join a group of forward-thinking local authorities as we looked at ways that councils could support the #iwill campaign from Step Up to Serve. The campaign aims to increase by 50% the number of young people involved in social action (in all and any form) by 2020, which would mean an additional 1.5 million young people aged 10-20 playing their part. Platitudes or practical action? What was really encouraging was how committed and enthused everyone in the room was about making it work by creating opportunities in their locality, dispelling myths, addressing barriers, improving the quality of opportunities and making it easier for young people to find them. Despite the concern that we’d get lost in rhetoric and spend the time reinforcing to each other what a good idea it is, the reality was much more practical – thinking about what could be done: from talking to schools, recognising volunteering in HR processes, developing a video to spread awareness and creating ambassadors at all levels to champion social action. Most importantly, a consistent theme was making sure the young people themselves were actively involved and not just “consulted”. As ever, language came up as a challenge – from a young volunteer as well as from council professionals – how do we help people recognise all the different forms of social action that they could contribute to, from girl-guiding to popping in to see a neighbour with a newspaper? And how do we stop turning people off by worrying about definitions and just let people get on and do stuff? From Land’s End to John O’Groats The other really positive thing about it was the breadth of place that were represented. From growing cities like Bristol, to rural counties like Norfolk; from the northern powerhouse of Manchester, to the coastal maritime home of Portsmouth; each had different challenges but all could share experiences and practical ideas for what turned people on, and off, to volunteering. Using a network to make things happen One of the strongest things that has and can come out of campaigns like Step Up to Serve is creating a network. Over time, the seven UK Cities of Service have been of great support to each other as they experiment in ways to mobilise impact volunteering in their localities, swapping war stories, volunteering policies and frustrations. #iwill brings together corporates, like o2 and British Gas, volunteering orgs like vinspired and NCS, and now councils, helping to join the dots between the different ways in which young people will interact with the world. It opens the door to creating joined-up opportunities between business, non-profit and public services, much like Team London and The Challenge’s HeadStart programme – and I’m excited to see what else might develop as the campaign evolves. Having the network adds punch to the pledge. Knowing you’re not the only one gives you strength when facing barriers and frustration; sharing ideas means you can learn from others mistakes; and speaking as one group means you can extend your reach much further. It also adds mutual responsibility and a bit of healthy competition to make things happen – who wants to be the partner that pledges but doesn’t have anything to show for it? It’s in the power of collaborating, mutual reinforcement and even talking to each other more that will create the lasting legacy of how to really create a national movement. This blog was originally hosted at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/turning-pledges-action#sthash.eMhuPr93.dpuf

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